Most patients thought video visits integrated into their existing primary care practice were convenient, provided high-quality care, and strengthened their relationship with their provider, results of a recent survey show.

Doctor and patient in a telemedicine session verbaska_studio/Getty Images

The video calls may reduce in-person primary care visits, particularly for the two-thirds of patients who otherwise would need to take off from work or make other arrangements to visit the office, according to researcher Mary E. Reed, DrPH, of the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, Oakland, Calif., and coauthors.*

“Integrated video telemedicine may be a transformative tool in increasing patient-centered access to health care,” the researcher noted in a report on the survey in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Millions of patients have used direct-to-consumer telemedicine services that are not necessarily integrated with the patient’s electronic medical records and may not provide access to the providers they are accustomed to seeing, investigators said in their report.

By contrast, “house call” video visits that were integrated into existing primary care practices may provide convenience plus access to patients’ usual providers. However, there’s only limited evidence on the patient experience with such integrations, they said.

To fill that information gap, Dr. Reed and colleagues surveyed adults with a scheduled video telemedicine visit with a primary care provider in Kaiser Permanente Northern California. A total of 1,274 patients provided responses.

The Kaiser Permanente telemedicine system allows all primary care providers to have video visits with patients. “Through Internet-connected and video-enabled computers or mobile devices, patients can join video visits from anywhere, and available clinicians include their own providers,” the researchers said in their report.

Of the patients surveyed, 87% said they scheduled a video visit because it was more convenient than other ways of receiving care. Furthermore, 93% said their video visit adequately addressed their needs, 90% said they were confident in the quality of care, and 84% agreed that the ability to have a video visit strengthened their relationship with the provider.

Of the patients who participated in the study, 67% said that, if the visit had been in person, they would have needed to have made at least one arrangement; time off from work was the issue for more than half of participants, though many cited childcare, coverage for another activity or responsibility, or arrangements with someone else to accompany them to the visit as issues.

Concerns with video visits were reported by some patients, researchers said. Twenty-one percent said they were worried that treatment would not be adequate, and 11% said they were concerned about the privacy of medical information.

Moreover, 41% of patients who had scheduled video visits said they preferred to get care in person, the survey results show.

Even so, 89% of patients said they were interested in a future video visit, according to the researchers.

Dr. Reed and coauthors declared no conflicts of interest related to this research, which was supported by a grant from Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.

SOURCE: Reed ME et al. Ann Intern Med. 2019 Apr 29. doi: 10.7326/M18-3081.

*Correction, 4/30/19: An earlier version of this article misstated the location of the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.